Not Enough Eggs?
Nothing puts a damper on keeping chickens like a high feed bill, too many aggressive roosters, and a flock of unproductive hens. Yet many chicken enthusiasts find themselves faced with just this situation. Some of them will find new homes for their old and unwanted chickens, others have resorted to dropping them off on a country road, and still others will do what our ancestors did and turn those extra chickens into a nice pot of soup.
I realize that the last option will not go over well with people who have named their hens Penelope or Brunhilda. However, it is a much better fate than dropping your pet chickens off and leaving them to their own devices. Most of those ill fated birds will meet up with wandering dogs, foxes, or coyotes…and that will not be a pleasant end.
Autumn is Near
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere like I do, and especially if you live up north a bit, you’ll find that the hens are slowing down in their egg production. I’ve shared some ideas for increasing their production. But, inevitably, with ‘old’ age those hens will slow down to the point where it is no longer economical to keep feeding them for the 1 or 2 eggs they give at their leisure.
I have found that fall is a good time to cull the extra hens from my flock so that I’m not feeding them through the winter when they’re unable to forage for their own grub outdoors. In the ways of our farming forebears, I opt for processing and eating these old hens. Some will make a nice fall soup, others will go in the freezer or I will pressure can the meat for winter.
A New Home for Henrietta?
If you can’t bring yourself to end the life of your beloved hens, but you don’t want to feed them any more, you can advertise them on Craigslist or another site. Just keep in mind that you have no idea what fate they will meet once they leave your homestead. It might be kinder to keep fewer chickens and butcher the extras each fall to keep your home economics in good stead.
DIY Chicken Processing
If you have decided that the proper thing to do is slaughter these old hens and extra roosters to provide food for your table, you can read my detailed post How to Butcher a Chicken and I will walk you through the steps. If you have questions about killing, dressing, or cooking these birds, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me. I’m always happy to help answer your questions!
Basic Chicken Soup from Scratch
Here are the basic instructions for making your own chicken soup, from scratch.
- dressed chicken
- vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery
- salt, pepper, seasonings
- stock pot
Wash chicken, place in large stock pot and cover with water. I also put the freshly scrubbed feet into the pot for extra gelatin. Add a pinch or so of salt, if desired. Bring water to a boil and turn down to simmer until the meat is falling off the bones.
Use a large spoon and fork to remove the carcass from the pot to a large pan or platter to cool. Pour broth through a sieve to remove any bones. When carcass is cooled, pick meat off bones and return meat and broth to stock pot.
Chop carrots, potatoes, onions, celery or any other vegetables that you like into the pot. You may also use rice and frozen vegetables, such as peas and corn or mixed vegetables. Turn the heat up to medium high until the broth begins to boil, then turn down to simmer until vegetables are tender. Add seasonings to taste. I like poultry seasoning, black pepper, salt, and sage…but use whatever your family prefers.
Note: Your own homemade chicken soup will taste much better than anything from a store bought can. You will have control over the ingredients and your chickens will provide one more meal on your homestead.
I also feed the bones back to my flock…they pick the bones clean in no time at all! The bones will eventually decompose and add nutrients back to the soil, but you can collect them and toss them in the garbage if you choose.
Do you process your extra roosters and old laying hens? Do you thin the flock in the fall, to cut down on the winter feed bill?